Pacific Crest Trail (2019) 73: Better Stakes Than Poles

Sunday, May 26, 2019 – 12.90 miles

Waking up early with the wind, I began the 2500 ft climb up to cloud-coated Burkhart Saddle. The trail was mostly in great condition, but just below the saddle I encountered a stretch of loose and narrow footing. I met a group of weekend backpackers conveniently placed to complain to about how the canyon felt like a wind tunnel; I was continuously having to brace myself with my poles.

On the opposite side of the saddle the wind was even worse, with the landscape completely hidden in mist. I motored down past a campsite to a tributary of Rock Creek, where I stopped to add my pack cover and rain pants to the rain jacket that I was already wearing as a warmth layer. The trail degraded alarmingly after the tributary, crossing a series of eroding hillsides and passing huge yucca blooms.

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Trail. Of sorts
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Yucca bloom

When I reached Burkhart Junction, where the detour meets the normal PCT, I took a celebratory ‘I’m alive!’ selfie/evidence for the border people. My nerves were definitely eroded after the past few days, so I was glad to be back on the friendly PCT. Would I recommend this detour option? No, because I’m afraid of being blamed for someone falling and cracking open their head.

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It rained in the afternoon. Again I met Medicine Man, whose rain jacket had a huge hole. I was tired and had to drag myself up to Cloudburst Summit, passing snow plants on the way.

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Wikipedia says: ‘It [the snow plant] is a parasitic plant that derives sustenance and nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that attach to roots of trees. Lacking chlorophyll, it is unable to photosynthesize. Ectomycorrhizal (EM) symbioses involve a mutualism between a plant root and a fungus; the plant provides fixed carbon to the fungus and in return, the fungus provides mineral nutrients, water and protection from pathogens to the plant. The snow plant takes advantage of this mutualism by tapping into the network and stealing sugars from the photosynthetic partner by way of the fungus.’ Interesting.

At Cloudburst Summit, the trail finally began descending into Cloudburst Canyon. Finding a nice campsite there, I decided to set up and save the miles for nicer weather. I pulled out my bag of stakes and discovered… one stake. I had left the others at my last campsite. I was crushed. I’ve never forgotten something at a campsite before, I always look around closely, but I must have missed seeing the stakes against the pale rock I placed them on. Knowing that more rain/snow was likely to fall in the evening or overnight, my first thought was that I would have to return to the highway and hitch out, but can not human ingenuity produce a more favourable result? I mean, obviously I have no ingenuity since I left behind my tent stakes, but maybe I can absorb some airborne ingenuity of others (on second thought, that sounds disgusting)? I asked myself, would the guy in The Martian have given up? Yes, he probably would have if confronted with a dire issue like missing tent stakes, but we’re not here to judge the guy from The Martian, so stop it. There were plenty of sticks and stones lying around and it turned out to be an easy albeit finicky matter to secure the sticks to my guylines and weigh down the sticks with rocks.

Since I set up, it’s been raining and sleeting. Glad to have my tent!

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